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Onopordum bracteatum0.jpg
Onopordum acanthium - young flowering head
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Subfamily: Carduoideae
Tribe: Cynareae
Genus: Onopordum
Vaill. ex L.[1]
Type species
Onopordum acanthium[1]
Cotton thistle (Onopordum acanthium) from Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885

Onopordum, cottonthistle,[3] is a genus of plants in the thistle tribe within the Asteraceae.[4] They are native to southern Europe, northern Africa, the Canary Islands, the Caucasus, and southwest and central Asia. They grow on disturbed land, roadsides, arable land and pastures.[5]

They are biennials (rarely short-lived perennials) with branched, spinose winged stems, growing 0.5–3 m tall. In the first season they form a basal rosette of gray-green felted leaves and rarely a few flower heads. In the second season they grow rapidly to their final height, flowering extensively, and then die off after seed maturation.[6]

The leaves are dentate or shallowly lobed to compound with several pinnatifid or deeply cut leaflets, and strongly spiny. The terminal flower head is typical for thistles, a semi-spherical to ovoid capitulum with purple (seldom white or pink) disc florets. There are no ray florets. The receptacle is glabrous with dentate margins. The tube of the corolla is slender, sac-shaped and symmetrical. The anthers have awl-shaped outgrowths on the top. The capitula have several overlapping rows of leathery basal simple linear-lanceolate spines. These are smooth to slightly pubescent.

These plants propagate only by seed. The seed heads mature in mid-summer, releasing their seeds. The fruit is a glabrous achene, 4–6 mm long and with 4-50 ribs. The pappus consists of many rows of simple, fine to minutely rough hairs, united in a circular base.[6]

Onopordum species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Coleophora onopordiella (feeds exclusively on O. acanthium).

In the Greek island of Crete a native species called agriagginara (αγριαγγινάρα) or koufoti (κουφωτοί) has its heads (flowers) and tender leaves eaten raw by the locals.[7]

  1. Onopordum acanthium L. - Cotton thistle, Scotch thistle, Scotch common-thistle, heraldic thistle, woolly thistle
    Onopordum acanthium - habit
    - widespread across Europe and temperate Asia
  2. Onopordum acaulon L. - Stemless thistle, horse thistle - France, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia
  3. Onopordum alexandrinum Boiss. - Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan
  4. Onopordum algeriense (Munby) Pomel - Algeria
  5. Onopordum ambiguum Fresen. - Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan
  6. Onopordum anatolicum (Boiss.) Eig. - Turkey
  7. Onopordum arenarium M.Hossain & M.A.A.Al-Sarraf - Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya
  8. Onopordum armenum Grossh. - Caucasus, Iran, Turkey
  9. Onopordum blancheanum (Eig) Danin - Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon
  10. Onopordum boissierianum Raab-Straube & Greuter - Turkey
  11. Onopordum bracteatum Boiss. & Heldr. - Greece, Turkey, Cyprus
  12. Onopordum canum Eig - Iran, Jordan, Israel, Turkey
  13. Onopordum carduchorum Bornm. & Beauverd - Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iran
  14. Onopordum carduelium Bolle - Canary Islands
  15. Onopordum carduiforme Boiss. - Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan
  16. Onopordum carmanicum (Bornm.) Bornm. - Iran
  17. Onopordum caulescens d'Urv. - Greece
  18. Onopordum cinereum Grossh. - Caucasus, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan
  19. Onopordum corymbosum Willk. - France, Spain
  20. Onopordum cynarocephalum Boiss. & Blanche - Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan
  21. Onopordum cyrenaicum Maire & Weiller - Libya
  22. Onopordum dissectum Murb. - Spain, Morocco
  23. Onopordum dyris Maire - Morocco
  24. Onopordum elongatum Lam.
  25. Onopordum eriocephalum Rouy - France
  26. Onopordum espinae Coss.
  27. Onopordum heteracanthum C.A.Mey. - Caucasus, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia
  28. Onopordum horridum Viv. - Italy
  29. Onopordum illyricum L. - Illyrian thistle, Illyrian cottonthistle - Mediterranean
  30. Onopordum leptolepis DC. - from Palestine to Altay + Xinjiang
  31. Onopordum macracanthum Schousb. - Spain, Portugal, Italy, Morocco, Algeria
  32. Onopordum macrocanthum d'Urv.
  33. Onopordum macrocephalum Eig - Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan
  34. Onopordum mesatlanticum Emb. & Maire - Morocco
  35. Onopordum micropterum Pau - Spain, Canary Islands
  36. Onopordum minor L. - Iran
  37. Onopordum myriacanthum Boiss. - Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria
  38. Onopordum nervosum Boiss. - Moor's cottonthistle - Spain, Portugal
  39. Onopordum parnassicum Boiss. & Heldr. - Greece, Turkey
  40. Onopordum platylepis (Coss. ex Murb.) Murb. - Libya, Tunisia
  41. Onopordum polycephalum Boiss. - Turkey
  42. Onopordum prjachinii Tamamsch. - Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
  43. Onopordum seravschanicum Tamamsch. - Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
  44. Onopordum sibthorpianum Boiss. & Heldr. - Greece, Sicily, Malta, Turkey, North Macedonia, Saudi Arabia
  45. Onopordum tauricum Willd. - Turkish thistle, Taurian thistle, Taurus cottonthistle, bull cottonthistle - southern + central Europe, Ukraine, Middle East
  46. Onopordum turcicum Danin - Turkey
  47. Onopordum wallianum Maire - Morocco
Natural hybrids
  • Onopordum × brevicaule (Onopordum acaulon × Onopordum acanthium )
  • Onopordum × erectum (Onopordum nervosum ssp. castellanum × Onopordum tauricum ssp. corymbosum )
  • Onopordum × macronervosum (Onopordum nervosum × Onopordum macrocanthum)
  • Onopordum × onubense (Onopordum dissectum × Onopordum macrocanthum)
  • Onopordum × spinosissimum (Onopordum illyricum × Onopordum acanthium)

Invasive problems[edit]

Some species of Onopordum have been introduced as ornamental plants in the temperate regions of North America and Australia, where they have become naturalised in the wild. In most of these countries, these thistles are considered noxious weeds, especially in Australia where a biological control program has been set up (using the Rosette Crown Weevil, Trichosirocalus briesei).[8] In North America, there are also Trichosirocalus control programs, but they have proved detrimental to native thistles.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Tropicos, Onopordum L.
  2. ^ Flann, C (ed) 2009+ Global Compositae Checklist Archived 2014-11-06 at Archive.today
  3. ^ "Onopordum". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  4. ^ Linnaeus, Carl von. 1753. Species Plantarum 2: 827 in Latin
  5. ^ Altervista Flora Italiana, genere Onopordum includes photos and distribution maps for several species
  6. ^ a b Flora of China Vol. 20-21 Page 159, 大翅蓟属 da chi ji shu Onopordum Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 827. 1753.
  7. ^ Kleonikos G. Stavridakis , Κλεόνικος Γ. Σταυριδάκης (2006), Wild edible plants of Crete - Η Άγρια βρώσιμη χλωρίδα της Κρήτης, Rethymnon Crete, ISBN 978-960-631-179-6
  8. ^ Briese, D. T.; Thomann, T.; Vitou, J. (2002), "Impact of the rosette crown weevil Trichosirocalus briesei on the growth and reproduction of Onopordum thistles", Journal of Applied Ecology, 39 (4): 688, doi:10.1046/j.1365-2664.2002.00747.x
  9. ^ Takahashi, Masaru; Louda, SM; Miller, TE; O'Brien, CW (2009), "Occurrence of Trichosirocalus horridus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) on Native Cirsium altissimum Versus Exotic C. Vulgare in North American Tallgrass Prairie", Environmental Entomology, 38 (3): 731–40, doi:10.1603/022.038.0325, PMID 19508782
  • Briese, D.T., Lane, D., Hyde-Wyatt, B.H., Crocker, J., Diver, R.G. (1990). Distribution of thistles of the genus Onopordum in Australia. Plant Protection Quarterly 5: 23-27.